THE annual budget, presented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, used to be on a Wednesday afternoon in the spring. This year, it will be next Monday on a, hopefully, sunny autumn afternoon.

It’s important stuff. Apart from anything else, taxation is set on an annual basis and if the government can’t get its budget agreed, it can’t set any taxes! Sounds terrific until we all realise that paying no taxes comes at a hideous cost to our valued public services and public servants.

There has been a promise of an end to austerity and next Monday provides the first opportunity for the government to show us exactly what it means by that. To be taken seriously on this pledge, the government must clearly show that it is easing up on fiscal purse strings and spending more. We already know that there will be significant investment into the NHS resulting in an increase spending of £85 billion by 2022. That equates to a 3.5 per cent annual increase in spend, but what about other services? Local councils have been hit very hard by austerity and whilst they have done an incredible job managing money, I am not sure there is any fat left to trim. Now is the time to help local authorities with ideas that can generate income over and above what they receive in central government funding and local taxes.

Similarly, our other public services – education, police, the armed forces, and a whole host of other services we need every day. However, whilst I’ve suggested on these pages before that we may have overdone austerity, that is not to suggest that we can give up ensuring taxpayers get value for money. We see daily just how taxpayers’ money can be wasted through poor procurement processes and poor management at a strategic level. That must be driven out.

Furthermore, we need to look at taxation. We must fund our public services, and that is raised through taxation and debt. But the idea that higher tax rates equate to higher tax revenue has been proved to be wrong again and again. So, I will also be looking for intelligent tax changes to drive greater tax revenues.

But at the heart of this budget, it must be fair. It must look after those who need the most help and ensure that we are getting money to where it is needed. That is the key test of an intelligent budget.